September 2009

Probiotics: Useful or Not?

In the wake of a recent settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit against Dannon's Activia and DanActive lines of yogurt, the New York Times has decided to dip into the discussion on "neutraceuticals" in the most non-committal tones.  The article cites information both in favor of and against the usefulness of probiotics in mass market grocery store products.  I think it behooves us to look a little more closely at the issue.

Michael Pollan among others is well known for mocking "nutraceuticals," and I can understand where he is coming from. It seems ridiculous - and so perfectly American - to expect a scientific food additive to fix a health issue. Eat your way to health! Nevertheless, yogurt has long been known to be a valuable source of helpful bacteria.  

MRSA Linked To Pets: Don’t Touch Your Dog!

A recent study published in The American Journal of Infection Control really made me sit back and wonder, how far are we - or should we - be willing to go, to keep from getting sick?  The study reported the results of a team of researchers who entered people's houses, swabbed every surface, cultured the results, then correlated the presence of MRSA with other factors.

They found that MRSA (drug resistant staph, one of the "superbugs" which is currently causing a great deal of concern and harm) was present in half of the households.  They tried to correlate MRSA with other factors, like having a child or regularly visiting the gym.

What they found was the family cat.  "Cat owners were eight times more likely than others to have MRSA at home."

Snus: Chewless, Smokeless Tobacco

Now you can try Camel's "Snus", which is basically chewing tobacco for people who like nicotine, but don't like the chewing tobacco. It comes in little log-shaped pouches and saves the "chewer" from all of the yucky business of having tobacco stuck inside your mouth and gives the "chewer" the flexibility  to basically "smoke" it anywhere. Wow-that's wonderful! Fantastic! Now kids who are secretly texting during class can secretly use "chewing tobacco" with ease as well.

Hamburger Helper for H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine?

If you live in the United States, the answer is "No."  However, both Canada and Europe have agreed to include adjuvants with their H1N1 swine flu vaccine.  Adjuvants are a strange bit of science, a "witches brew" according to someone quoted in this New York Times article.  Adjuvants (pronounced AD-joo-vants) are like the helper in Hamburger Helper - they make the vaccine stretch farther, but they also make it better.

Adjuvants were first discovered in the 1920s, when a veterinarian discovered that diphtheria shots worked better on horses when the vaccine was given at a spot which happened to be inflamed.  The veterinarian experimented with several odd substances (including bread crumbs and tapioca) trying to get an inflammation response.  

Michael Pollan Says Health Care Crisis Result of Poor Eating Habits

Now don't get me wrong, I like Michael Pollan's overall message.  He's right, somehow America has lost its way, food-wise.  I have steered my own diet towards local produce, fresh ingredients, and vegetarianism.  However, I had to scoff when I read Michael Pollan's latest op ed in the New York Times, wherein he blames the health care crisis on bad eating.

For one thing, he claims that obesity is responsible for most of the long term chronic conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control.  If you ask me, when I look at that list, I see a list composed mainly of things that result from smoking.  But this debate is fruitless.

What's The Line Between Clutter And Hoarding?

Hoarding and hoarders have suddenly become all the rage lately, thanks in large part to the A&E network's documentary show "Hoarders," which airs a weekly episode detailing the life (and clean up efforts) of hoarders.

Hoarding strikes a chord with most of us, because it's so easy to see how someone could get there.  I recently realized that somehow I had accumulated about 50 of those clear plastic tubs for leftovers, many of which were missing there lids.  Is there any reasonable situation in which I will need 50 clear plastic tubs for leftovers all at once STAT?  No, there is not.  So I threw them away.